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Home » Blog » Tennessee to Start Decriminalizing Marijuana

Tennessee to Start Decriminalizing Marijuana

nashville skyline with red sky and TN flag with pot leaves instead of starsRemember those marijuana decriminalization measures that Nashville has been considering for the past few months? On Tuesday, that consideration ended.

The Nashville Metro Council voted in favor of the much more relaxed decriminalization measures in an overwhelming vote of 35-3. Of course, that’s not the end of the road for this piece of legislation. Before it can be officially adopted, it has to get approved by Mayor Megan Barry. This is probably going to happen because she said it would.

So what’s changed exactly?

Nashville currently abides by the criminal standards set by Tennessee state law. Folks who get caught with up to a half-ounce of marijuana are looking at a Class A misdemeanor on their criminal records and have to fork over up to $2,500 in fines.

Once the new decriminalization measures are set in stone, Nashville police officers will still be able to charge offenders in accordance with state possession laws. However: another option will also be available. Instead of insanely high fines and a potentially crippling blemish on their criminal records, those caught in possession of up to a half-ounce of marijuana will be able to go home with nothing more than a $50 fine or 10 hours of community service. Instead of getting charged with criminal offenses, they’ll get civil penalties.

There is still some debate over the “either/or” aspect of the new measures.

About a month or so ago when lawmakers were still negotiating legislative specifics, the Nashville police department was not quite on board. At issue was the shift from criminal offenses to civil penalties — Metro Police wanted to make sure they’d still be able to pursue criminal charges for people who violate possession laws if the circumstances call for it.

So it seems police concerns were indeed taken into account.

In their place are new concerns.

The council members who voted against decriminalization measures stated that they were worried about the implications of sending “mixed messages.” Some people are going to be treated like criminals and others aren’t, even though they committed the same offense? What factors will dictate how officers use their “discretion?”

These are reasonable concerns, but not really possible to address until we see the law in action. Looking ahead, though, it does seem ominously possible that those caught with under a half-ounce of pot will be looking at a “Russian roulette situation” in which their fate depends on the whims of whoever arrests them.

All in all, the general consensus appears to be that Nashville is headed in a direction of progress. In the words of Mayor Megan Barry:

“This legislation is a positive step forward in addressing the overly punitive treatment of marijuana possession in our state that disproportionally impacts low-income and minority residents.”

Yeehaw for progress!

While we wait for marijuana legalization to truly flourish, however, let’s not forget about the laws in place today. Even with Nashville’s new decriminalization measures, those state-enforced consequences aren’t going anywhere. And if you’re caught in possession of marijuana today, those are the laws you’re going to be answering to.

At Turner Law Offices, P.C., our team of attorneys has years of experience working with clients across a wide range of cases involving marijuana possession. If you’ve been accused of possessing criminal amounts of marijuana in Nashville, your best bet for a clean criminal record is to take legal action. The sooner you start on your case, the better your case will be, so don’t wait to start on the first step: hiring trustworthy legal representation. Without a good attorney, the unfortunate truth is that your odds of success are as low as they can possibly be — so don’t wait! Call today, or go online to set up your free initial consultation, and meet with a skilled lawyer who’s ready and waiting to guide you toward the justice you deserve.

(615) 259-2660

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